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Panama: Martinelli Questioned For Participating in North Korean Ship Seizure
Panama: Martinelli Questioned For Participating in North Korean Ship Seizure

Material in the World News Connection is generally copyrighted by the source cited. Permission for use must be obtained from the copyright holder. Inquiries regarding use may be directed to NTIS, US Dept. of Commerce.

[Note: The translation below is machine based with limited editorial intervention]

Thee role of the president, Ricardo Martinelli, in the inspection and removal of containers from North Korean vessel has been criticized.

The proceedings in the North Korean vessel Chong Chon Gang, in Colon, spent more than a week generating news nationally and internationally. This is an important fact that has sparked reactions from both confiscated materials as the protagonists.

But those are not the only two edges exploited by experts and international media. Their attention is drawn to the very striking presence and active participation of the President, Ricardo Martinelli, in the process.

The Panamanian leader not only participated in the raid, but constantly posted pictures and details of the procedure in their own social network Twitter.


On Thursday July 18, the Argentine newspaper Clarin published an article that said Martinelli "overplayed a tour of the cargo holds in the ship" because he had been warned by Washington, and he "saw an opportunity to get out in the international news."

Meanwhile, on Friday, July 19 the Los Angeles Times published an analysis in which it concluded that the search was more a drama than a danger, and revealed that likes Martinelli appear and participate in significant seizures and that this, in particular given the opportunity to stage an event of public relations.


To Eloy Alfaro, former executive of the Panama Canal Authority and Panama's ambassador in Washington during the ruling period of Perez Balladares (1994-1999), the president's participation in the search of the vessel is incorrect. "I still do not understand why there (...) I did not know that he had jurisdiction to interfere in criminal investigations, which correspond to the Attorney General" sustained.

"I know of no law that would give the president the power to participate in such criminal investigation. The Foreign Ministry itself justified the revocation of visas that had been approved by representatives of the Government of Korea, to come and inspect the vessel, claiming that it had not obtained the permission of the Attorney General, which is the only authority that could give it "says Alfaro, for whom the active participation of the president on this issue could" compromise the integrity of investigation and the viability of the evidence."

Along the same line says political scientist Carlos Guevara Mann, who explains that neither order nor do criminal investigations raids are executive functions.

By court order, says, security services, executive dependent, conduct searches, as auxiliaries to the justice authorities.

But for him there are two constitutional provisions that could make the President's visit to Chong Chon Gang ship into the context of the performance of their duties.

The first is the constitutional article 183, paragraph 3, which states that one of the functions of the President of the Republic is "to ensure the preservation of public order," and the second is Article 310, which states that the President of the Republic is the head of the Armed Forces services outlined in the Constitution.


Another error in the active presence of the ruler in the raid, according to the Government and Justice former deputy minister Severino Mejía is unnecessary risk he took to his personal safety.

"Given the ignorance of the contents in the hold of the ship, even though intelligence reports had revealed the type of cargo, it was advisable to stay away, at least in the initial investigations (...) It is an outburst have been exposed to a situation that required his presence," he says.

According to Mejia, that "is not a common practice in other countries is usually very rare that presidents become visible in such cases. Typically, the presence of the competent authorities."


According to interviewees, this topic is another important aspect: the international promotion. According to Alfaro, so active participation of the president casts a negative international image "not only for the abuse of authority to interfere in a investigation process for which he has no jurisdiction, but by how little serious on the show was screened television."

In this aspect, says Guevara Mann, "the visit has had good effects of propaganda, at least initially, as it has raised the profile of Panama as a state anti-smuggling and arms trafficking, and abides by the decisions of the United Nations" .

However, the political scientist thinks that in the days and weeks following "the matter may be complicated in view of the involvement of Cuba, North Korea, the Security Council and other parties with diverse interests and defined." Thus, he argues, "will play the Panamanian Government to make a diplomatic work very efficient and neat to get out of this situation."

And that is where, according to Alfaro, must protect the President to prevent, to attend inspection, "is too close to a problem of international diplomatic, already complicated, and can worsen more without it is unclear what will be the outcome. The grin smile can become, "he said.


"For this issue we have called," he said yesterday one of the members of the National Council of Foreign Affairs of the Foreign Ministry, who requested anonymity, after being consulted on what role they had in the case of the North Korean vessel.

"All the ministers, yes we have called other times, including today, Fernando Nunez Fabrega, but on this occasion," he added.

The National Council of Foreign Relations is, according to Law 28 of 1999 which governs the Foreign Ministry, the query instance that portfolio in foreign policy. The same rule says it will be chaired by the Foreign Minister and composed of personalities from public life, pro bono appointed by the Executive. Adds the law that will meet three times a year, or "when is convened extraordinarily".

In the government of President Ricardo Martinelli, this entity was installed November 19, 2009, when Vice President Juan Carlos Varela, served as foreign minister. At that time it was reportedly consisting of José Miguel Aleman Healy, Victor Azrak Atienza, Rafael Barcenas Perez, Navin Bhakta, Alejandro Blanco, Aníbal Galindo, Emanuel Gonzalez-Revilla Jurado, William Libermann, Guido J. Martinelli Endara, Jurgen Mossack, Stanley Motta Cunningham, Janet Poll, Nicholas Psychoyos Tagarópulos, Isabel Alvarado St. Malo, and Taher Jaafar Chahine. In December of 2011 named Arthur and Francisco Melo Martinelli, president's family.

Asked about the issue, Foreign Minister Nunez Fabrega said one of the members resigned, but declined to say the name. "That's not important right now," adding that he was preparing a trip. He said that the issues of North Korean vessel "is handling the licensed Mulino. We have no police."


Attorney General Ana Belfon confirmed yesterday that the First Drug Prosecutorâ??s Office will again question the 35 members of the crew of the Chong Chon Gang North Korean vessel to determine its relationship with the Cuban military equipment found on the ship and so determine responsibilities direct criminal proceedings for crimes against collective security follows them with his arrest on Monday.

Belfon acknowledged, however, that it is the prerogative of foreign detainees to testify before the authorities or not. "We need them to provide some data on the relationship they have with the findings," she said.

She said so far the prosecution has not had any contact with the North Korean Government, so it is the duty of the Panamanian authorities to provide them with lawyers.

She explained that trying to determine if the weapons found on the ship are part of the equipment seized by the United Nations Organization (UN).

Belfon said the two MIG-21 discovered on Sunday they had full fuel tanks.

She said that the fuel was inside the containers where the planes were.

Meanwhile, First Drug Prosecutor Javier Caraballo, said to reschedule the questioning of the crew will need to hire translators, a task that so far has not been easy because it is a language that is not common in Panama.

Caraballo also confirmed that officials of the International Red Cross will be involved in the case, in order to know the status of the 35 sailors.

"This is a case that has international implications with respect to a country with which Panama has no relations, so we must ensure that an international organization can verify the good health of the crew," he said.

He said that yesterday oened the eighth container found in the first hold of the ship was not opened and that the task was postponed to today.

[Description of Source: Panama City in Spanish -- Online version of most widely circulated daily, pro business; URL]

Material in the World News Connection is generally copyrighted by the source cited. Permission for use must be obtained from the copyright holder. Inquiries regarding use may be directed to NTIS, US Dept. of Commerce.

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